BendCentral Oregon’s runaway youth are at risk of trafficking and homelessness, advocate...

Central Oregon’s runaway youth are at risk of trafficking and homelessness, advocate says

Central Oregon’s runaway youth are at risk of trafficking and homelessness, advocate says
KTVZ file
Counselor says oftentimes parents do not report runaway youth to police.

Not all families report runaway youth, according to a youth program director

BEND, Ore. (KTVZ) — Several families have reached out to NewsChannel 21 in recent months, asking for help finding a runaway child. 

NewsChannel 21 spoke recently with Eliza Wilson, the director of runaway and homeless youth programs for J Bar J Youth Services.

Familial homelessness is also a risk factor, one Wilson knows all too well.

Wilson said she experienced family conflict and homelessness as a child. She was able to turn her life around with the help of J Bar J Youth Services and its programs.

“I was really fortunate to receive services and have a stable place to live, graduate high school and go to college,” she said.

Now, her story has come full circle in her role to advocate for young people facing the same struggles she once had.

“A lot of times, we try to find a reason why a young person is running away, and it tends to fall back on the young person,” she said. “I don’t think this is ever a situation that young people just choose. It’s oftentimes very complex.”

She cited two main reasons young people typically run away from home.

One situation is when a family conflict starts to escalate because the family has not received help to resolve the issues.

Another common situation is when a young person does not have family support at home, due to other factors, including but not limited to abuse, neglect and addiction.

“Adolescence is a tough time, and there’s a lot of external factors as well,” Wilson said.

Wilson said last year, J Bar J served more than 140 runaway or homeless youth.

The Homeless Leadership Coalition’s annual Point in Time count this year found there were 104 homeless youth between the ages of 18 and 24, and 223 under the age of 18.

“Many of the times a young person runs away, a parent doesn’t call them in as a runaway,” Wilson said. “By that point, the family has experienced so much stress and trauma that they aren’t involving law enforcement when a young person runs away.”

Wilson said there are resources available for families to prevent young people from running away, including family mediation and sometimes providing short-term shelter to the young person until familial conflict is resolved.

NewsChannel 21’s Rhea Panela will have her full report, along with details from the Bend Police Department on KTVZ-NBC at 5 p.m.

If you or someone you know is experiencing trauma, substance abuse, or trafficking, here is a list of resources:

Cascade Youth and Family Center 24-hour Hotline


National Runaway Safeline


National Suicide Prevention Lifeline


The Trevor Project

Information for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Questioning Youth


Association of Child and Youth Care Practice, Inc. (ACYCP)

Helping Americas Youth

National Alliance to End Homelessness (NAEH)

National Association for the Education of Homeless Children and Youth (NAEHCY)

National Center for Homeless Education (NCHE)

National Network for Youth (NN4Y)

National Youth Development Information Center (NYDIC)

Safe Place

The post Central Oregon’s runaway youth are at risk of trafficking and homelessness, advocate says appeared first on KTVZ.
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